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One and Done - FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

Saints start offseason with odd mix of bitterness, optimism

Mon Jan 21 6:29pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

Players: Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Taysom Hill, Teddy Bridgewater, Tommylee Lewis

In this Dec. 23, 2018 file photo, New Orleans Saints linebacker Craig Robertson (52) reacts to the crowd as he runs off the field after their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game in New Orleans. On Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, the Saints will host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game. (AP Photo/Bill Feig, File)


New Orleans Saints linebacker Craig Robertson (52) leaves the field after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson arrives before the NFL football NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints punter Thomas Morstead is having a tougher time taking the high road after a second consecutive season ended in stunned disappointment - this time because of officiating, rather than an opponent's late-game heroics.

Morstead drew headlines for his sportsmanship - not to mention an outpouring of financial support for his charitable endeavors - by volunteering to return to the field from the visitor's locker room in Minnesota for a required extra point try after the Vikings had ended the Saints' 2017-18 playoff run with a long, improbable touchdown as time expired.

''Last year we felt like we got beat; they made a play and we didn't stop them,'' Morstead said. ''As tough as that was, I think as a player you can handle that. This just feels a little dirty.''

Saints players spent Monday struggling to stomach the fact that they were conducting exit interviews and cleaning out their lockers when they thought they should be preparing to play in the Super Bowl.

They remained incredulous over two officials' reluctance to throw a flag when Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman delivered an improperly early and high hit on intended receiver Tommylee Lewis that could have been penalized for pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact. A penalty would have allowed the Saints to mostly run out the clock before trying a go-ahead field goal.

Instead, the Saints took a three-point lead with 1:41 left, and the Rams came back to tie it at the end of regulation and win, 26-23, in overtime.

Acceptance wasn't coming easy.

Even Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement on pledging to ''aggressively pursue changes'' in NFL policies to promote more ''fairness and integrity'' on the field.

''No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field,'' Benson's statement read. ''As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity.''

Decisive personnel decisions and aggressive play-calling were among the signs that the Saints were all-in to win the Super Bowl this season.

They traded for Teddy Bridgewater late in the preseason in an effort to ensure quarterback Drew Brees' backup would have the combination of experience and talent they felt necessary to preserve championship aspirations in the event Brees was injured.

The move also provided more flexibility to employ versatile third-string QB Taysom Hill in a variety of roles on offense and special teams. They played to win and win big, regularly keeping the offense on the field on fourth down and executing several fake punts. They were bent on winning the No. 1 seed, viewing two home games in the deafening din of the Superdome as the surest route to this season's Super Bowl in Atlanta.

Saints players also professed that the chemistry they achieved in their locker room was rare.

''That's the hardest thing about this season'' ending,'' said linebacker Craig Robertson, whose contract is up. ''I've never been so close with so many guys on a team in my life.''

Now they'll have to start over, and that means at least a few roster moves. Free agents include running back Mark Ingram, who has said he does not want to leave but has a professional obligation to keep his options open.

Defensive end Alex Okafor could opt out, which might be in his interest given that he was sharing snaps this season with first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport.

Defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, defensive back P.J. Williams and Bridgewater also are among those due to be unrestricted free agents, while tight end Ben Watson is retiring.

The 40-yeear-old Brees is under contract for one more season and sounded confident after Sunday's game that he'd be back.

Before the team went its separate ways, the shared message seemed to be that after they've taken some time to rest and decompress, they have to summon the determination to return with the same optimism, desire and determination as they did after losing in heartbreaking fashion in Minnesota the season before.

''That's the tough part about this game, is kind of the emotional investment for guys to physically lay it on the line every week and when it's over, it's kind of like getting broken up with somebody that you love,'' Morstead said. ''Some people are kind of never able to love the same again after that. It's hard to come back and put your heart and soul into it just as hard as you did the last time.

''That's why it's so important to have the right guys in the locker room, because when you have the right guys, they're kind of able to be vulnerable and accept it, take it, take it on the chin and find a way to come back the next year and emotionally invest 100 percent again,'' Morstead added. ''So, hopefully we can do that.''

Player Notes
Patrick Peterson Feb 15 9:03am ET

Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson will return to shadowing the top opposing wide receivers in 2019, according to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

Mike Gillislee Feb 15 9:03am ET

Free-agent RB Mike Gillislee (Saints) worked out for the Detroit Lions Thursday, Feb. 14.

Danny Amendola Feb 14 11:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins WR Danny Amendola could fill the slot receiver role for the Detroit Lions in 2019 because of his connection to head coach Matt Patricia, in the opinion of Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.

Emmanuel Sanders Feb 14 10:43pm ET

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles') said he is no longer wearing a walking boot but still has a 'slight limp' when walking around.

Fantasy Spin: After suffering an Achilles' injury late in the year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sanders miss time in 2019. He showed last year that he can be a WR2 as the top option in Denver's passing attack, but fantasy owners will need to be patient as he returns to form.

Chad Williams Feb 14 10:13pm ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Chad Williams caught 37 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2018 and had two catches or less in all but two games.

Laquon Treadwell Feb 14 10:03pm ET

Minnesota Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell averaged 5.7 yards per target last year, the fourth-worst mark among receivers with at least 50 targets, and Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com expects Treadwell's fifth-year option to be declined.

Fantasy Spin: The former first-round pick has been a bust, and he didn't show any signs of righting the ship despite a bigger role in 2018. Even in dynasty formats, it may be time to give up on Treadwell.

Golden Tate Feb 14 9:53pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent WR Golden Tate and Washington Redskins impending free-agent WR Jamison Crowder are options to fill the need the Green Bay Packers have at slot receiver, according to Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.

Fantasy Spin: The Packers need a dependable option to support Davante Adams, and both Tate and Crowder would quickly become potential WR3 options if Aaron Rodgers is throwing them the ball.

Keanu Neal Feb 14 9:33pm ET

Atlanta Falcons SS Keanu Neal (knee) posted a video of himself going through agility drills without a brace on his injured left knee.

Colt McCoy Feb 14 9:13pm ET

Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy (leg) was seen without any braces or supports for his injured leg.

Denzel Perryman Feb 14 8:43pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent LB Denzel Perryman will be re-signed this offseason if the Chargers have their way, according to a source.

Colin Kaepernick Feb 14 8:13pm ET

Updating a previous report, free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick (49ers) desired at least $20 million to play in the Alliance of American Football, according to a source.

Nick Foles Feb 14 7:53pm ET

Free-agent QB Nick Foles (Eagles) is expected to 'keep tabs on' the New York Giants this offseason, according to NJ.com's Zack Rosenblatt. A source with knowledge of Foles' thinking said the former Super Bowl MVP would 'probably' be interested in starting for the Giants if they were to release QB Eli Manning.

Fantasy Spin: There are many pieces that must fall in order for Foles to the Giants to work out. It's a sensible destination, though, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley leading one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. Foles could be the piece that makes them take a forward step. Were this signing to come to fruition, Foles would demand QB1 consideration given the pieces that would be around him.

Nick Foles Feb 14 7:53pm ET

Free-agent QB Nick Foles (Eagles) is not expected to return to the Philadelphia Eagles as the backup to Carson Wentz.

Fantasy Spin: Foles deserves a starting job. He won't want to play as a backup and make less money when there are teams willing to pay him to be their starter. He can be a part of the QB1 conversation if he lands in the right spot. Of course, when Wentz is healthy he too has QB1 appeal.

Colin Kaepernick Feb 14 7:13pm ET

Free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick (49ers) and former NFL QB Tim Tebow were asked if they wanted to join the Alliance of American Football, according to league co-founder Bill Polian. Polian said he doesn't know what transpired with Kaepernick, but added that he spoke personally with Tebow, who declined.

Antonio Brown Feb 14 6:53pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown and Steelers impending free-agent RB Le'Veon Bell are not expected to be intensely pursued by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. The Colts will have the most salary cap space in the league this offseason and will do their due diligence, but Brown's off-field drama and Bell's asking price may be too much for the Colts.

Fantasy Spin: The Colts did just fine last year without the services of Brown or Bell. Brown seems like more of an immediate need, but general manager Chris Ballard wants a cohesive and cooperative locker room. While the fantasy marriage of Brown and/or Bell with the Colts might be ideal, don't get your hopes up.

Sean Lee Feb 14 4:33pm ET

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee is considered a strong candidate to be cut this offseason, in the opinion of NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Lee's extensive injury history, $10 million cap hit and the presence of fellow LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith don't bode well for a possible return.

Christian Kirk Feb 14 2:23pm ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (foot) expects to be fully healed from his broken foot by the end of February. Kirk suffered the injury in Week 12 last season. Doctors said his recovery process is going well. 'I'm doing all the things I can to make sure I'm the best me,' Kirk said.

Fantasy Spin: Kirk performed well overall as a rookie despite Arizona's disappointing year. He and Josh Rosen showed glimpses of a future dynamic duo. Even with Larry Fitzgerald returning, Kirk possesses WR3 upside as Arizona's No. 2 wide receiver.

Pierre Garcon Feb 14 2:00pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers will not pick up the 2019 option on wide receiver Pierre Garcon, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The 32-year-old declining wideout played in just 16 total games in his two seasons in San Francisco and missed eight games last season with shoulder and knee issues. The Niners will be hit with $7.2 million in deal money and will save $1.075 million on the salary cap. Garcon, who will turn 33 in August, plans on continuing his career, but he's unlikely to have a robust market given his age and injuries the last two years.

From RotoBaller

Case Keenum Feb 14 1:53pm ET

Denver Broncos QB Case Keenum could likely be obtained in a trade for a fifth-round draft pick, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Thursday, Feb. 14. Keenum could be one of the top backups in the league, according to Motensen, and the Tennessee Titans would be an ideal landing spot.

Fantasy Spin: Titans starting QB Marcus Mariota hasn't played a full year in any of his four pro seasons so far, and he missed three starts this past season with injuries, so Keenum would certainly project as better option than current backup Blaine Gabbert, who had a 74.9 rating and threw as many interceptions (four) as TD passes while making a trio of starts.

Keke Coutee Feb 14 1:50pm ET

Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee, who dealt with hamstring injuries off and on his entire rookie season, is fully healthy again in the offseason and is excited going into his second season. "I'm feeling great," Coutee said. "I'm feeling really good. I'm feeling like myself." He managed to play in only six games in 2018 and had 28 receptions for 287 yards and one touchdown. Coutee also had 11 catches for 110 yards and a score ono 14 targets in the wild-card playoff loss to the Colts. With DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller on the outside, Coutee could have a big year in his second season out of the slot in a dangerous offense. He might fly under the radar in drafts, too, making him an attractive sleeper.

From RotoBaller